Jessica Murnane is one of the coolest people in Chicago. Don’t believe us? She’s done so many impressive things in her adult life here — helping run Gen Art; building a bespoke stationary line; and adopting a cute-ass baby with her also very cool husband, Dan. But one of the things we love the most about Jess is that, after years of health issues, she decided to change her diet, go plant based and has never felt better. Now she uses her experience and knowledge to help others through her personal website, JessicaMurnane.com, where you can learn about plant-based living, get recipes and download her e-cookbooks through One Part Plant and hear about all the people she thinks are doing amazing things through her One Part Podcast. Let’s find out what she’s doing in Chicago and the fantastic chefs she’s working with to help make Chicago healthier.
Chicago Athletic Association: Chicago had a reputation for being a meat and potatoes town. How is it transforming into a vegetable-friendly city?
Jessica Murnane: Slow and steady. I’m not sure Chicago will ever be the hub of healthy, planty-food, but so many great options are popping up on menus in the city. A soggy side of broccoli isn’t going to cut it anymore with the clean-eating movement that’s happening right now. It’s been exciting to see how chefs are getting creative and making veggies the main event and not just a side.
Chicago Athletic Association: What are you doing to help push plant-based lifestyles forward?
JM: By trying not to be pushy! I created the One Part Plant restaurant program to ease people into eating plant-based foods and give people that already do more options. I partner with some of the best restaurants and chefs in the city to offer at least one plant-based option on their menu. When you change your diet, you don’t want to be banished to only eating at “healthy” restaurants, but you also don’t want to be the asshole at the table asking for a million substitutions. This program is the best of both worlds and your friends will actually still want to go out to eat with you.
Chicago Athletic Association: Who are some Chicago chefs you’re working with … and why those?
JM: I’m working with Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe on a special Farm Dinner coming up on July 13. Jason is the man in terms of Chicago chefs.
Chicago Athletic Association: What are your favorite local restaurants giving vegetables the spotlight on their menus?
JM: Owen + Alchemy, hands down. Their juices and bowls are some of the best in the country, not just Chicago. They take organic and seasonality to the next level. I’m also a huge fan of Found. Technically, it’s in Evanston. But it’s definitely worth the trip. I don’t have a car, so I’m constantly asking my friends to hitch a ride to Found … they’re never disappointed when we get there.
Chicago Athletic Association: Do you hold local events to help people understand a plant-based diet — and if so, what’s coming up?
JM: I’m doing a class with Dabble that I’m really excited about. It’s going to be focused on my top ten pantry items to transform your kitchen and then we’re going to cook up lots of dishes and desserts with them. I’m also going to be a guest juicerista at Owen + Alchemy at their Eataly popup, which will basically be me drinking juice all day and telling people why I think it’s so delicious.
Chicago Athletic Association: You have a webcast — One Part Podcast. How do you decide who you’ll talk to each week and how are people responding to the weekly chats?
JM: The podcast!! It’s one of my most favorite things I’ve ever gotten to do. I just love sharing people’s stories. It’s giving me so many new opportunities and really connect with a whole new audience in a really intimate way. In terms of choosing guests, I’ve interviewed everyone from a random stranger I found on Instagram to reaching out to one of my favorite cookbook authors. I just want the guest to have a compelling story. And big names don’t always equal big downloads. I choose people who I’m genuinely interested in interviewing and ones who I think will be open and really want to share their story. “Yes” and “no” answers don’t make for great podcasts.